From the author of HhHH, a madcap, irreverent French theory/detective story mash-up that’s part mystery and part satire, turning Roland Barthes’s accidental death in 1980 into a murder investigation set against French intellectual life.
The 7th Function is a satiric romp through the upper echelons of Parisian intellectual life, indicting anyone – Sollers, for example – who takes the signified more seriously than the signifier. Yet it also has a serious point to make about the power of language to shape reality ... It is also very entertaining, like a dirty Midnight in Paris for the po-mo set; look out for Bernard Henri-Lévy getting fondled by Lacan’s mistress at a dinner party hosted by Julia Kristeva, or Judith Butler in a threesome with Bayard and Hélène Cixous ... But in the end, The 7th Function of Language isn’t (only) playing for lowbrow/highbrow laughs; it’s a mise en scène of conflicting ideas about Frenchness. In an election year that saw Marine Le Pen get dangerously close to the French presidency, Binet’s postmodern policier asks where the nation is going, and what kind of car it will drive to get there.
...a cunning, often hilarious mystery for the Mensa set and fans of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and Tom Stoppard's Arcadia ... In addition to some challenging thickets of language theory, the novel is packed with drama — car chases, mutilations, suicide, graphic sex, and multiple murders. There are Russian spies, Bulgarian assassins, Venetian thugs, Japanese saviors, a wily North African gigolo — Foucault's pendant! — and a secret debating society in which the stakes range from digital amputation to castration. Sam Taylor's deft translation encompasses heavy linguistic exegeses, political discussions, oratory duels, and even some puns, including echo and Eco ... Like Nabokov's Lolita, this wonderfully clever novel can be enjoyed on multiple levels. But to fully appreciate its ingenious metafictional complexities, be prepared to do some Googling.
At once a buddy-cop plot, a fish-out-of-water comedy and a spy thriller, Bayard and Herzog’s adventures become exercises in incongruity ... Along the way, no small pleasure is to be had from the amusing, sometimes scabrous, satirical portraiture of illustrious figures ... On its surface it’s a romp, then, a burlesque set in a time when literary theory was at its cultural zenith; knowing, antic, amusingly disrespectful and increasingly zany as it goes on ... The parodic idea of a world where secret agents and government ministers pursue the insights of literary theorists ends up less a pointed satire than an occasion to gather a crowd of beloved figures into one narrative — and maybe a way to mask affection ... The baroque workings of the novel’s detective plot spin into dizzying exhaustion. What works best here is a quality reminiscent of Barthes: the narrative’s attentiveness, particularly to sharp details that resist the effort to read them as clues.